30% of the terrorist plots detected by MI5, the UK’s national security service, since 2017 have been of extreme right. Ken McCallum, head of MI5, has stressed that the threat from the far right is increasing with “small but significant international connections.”
In his first meeting with journalists since taking office in March, McCallum noted that far-right terrorism is not “on the same level as Islamist terrorism, but that it is growing: of the 27 terrorist plots detected in the UK by MI5 and the antiterrorist police since 2017, eight have been far-rightists. “
“Many young people are attracted to this ideology, which tends to suggest that this threat will be with us for a few years,” he added.
However, he explained that although the far right shows signs of international ties, it still it is not a “coherent global movement”, like Al Qaeda or the Islamic State, “where there is a kind of unifying purpose and a unique organization.”
Last year, a 23-year-old member of the neo-Nazi group National Action was sentenced to life in prison after admitting that he conspired to kill a local deputy with a machete and threatened to kill a police officer. Jack Renshaw’s plans were revealed by a whistleblower who overheard Renshaw announce his intentions in a pub in July 2017, a year after Labor MP Jo Cox was assassinated by a far-rightist.
In 2019, about a dozen people were convicted of crimes related to terrorism, according to the anti-racist charity Hope Not Hate, including a Durham teenager who was planning attacks on local synagogues.
The head of MI5 emphasizes that the threat continues to grow in Europe and the United States. “Basically all the security services that we closely interact with detect a similar problem.”
McCallum, a Glasgow mathematics graduate who led both the investigation into the 2018 Salisbury poisoning of Sergei Skripal, which the UK government says were carried out by Russian agents, and the operation to protect the 2012 London Olympics , took office just when the UK went into lockdown.
After 24 years in the service, McCallum rises to the top of MI5 at a time when the security service came under much criticism for failing to prevent the bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, and for his performance on the alleged Russian meddling in the British elections.